During E3, contributing editor Jess Conditt and I met up with the folks at Nyko to take a look at the Free Fighter, the company's first real foray into the world of high-end arcade sticks. The Free Fighter's main selling point, beyond its Sanwa Denshi parts -- well, mostly Sanwa Denshi, as half the button plungers are in-house -- and programmable macros, is its modular design, which allows the joystick to be placed on either the left or right side of the buttons, or even be detached all together. Ambidextrous arcade sticks have been done before, but Nyko's offering is a bit more elegant than Qanba's solution.
That being said, the Free Fighter isn't necessarily the prettiest arcade stick I've ever seen, but it is certainly striking in an angular, industrial way. The lack of surface area isn't as much of an issue as it originally seemed like it would be, and resting my hands on the stick felt comfortable, be it on a table or in my lap. Nyko says the stick's small footprint was designed with portability in mind, so as to make the stick easier to transport from event to event.
Launching for the PS3 this holiday at a $180 price point, the Free Fighter is $30 more expensive than its strongest competition, the Mad Catz Round 2 Tournament Edition FightStick, which also uses Sanwa Denshi parts. Nyko told us that if successful, the Free Fighter could be adapted into a platform for other peripheral modules, like a flight stick or racing wheel. Xbox 360 and Wii U versions are expected to launch sometime next year.
Check out our awkward hands-on video above, as well as pictures of the Free Fighter and Nyko's other E3 offerings (Power Grip for Vita, Power Grip Pro for 3DS, Powerpad and Powerpad Pro for Android) in the gallery below.
Photo and video credit: Jess Conditt